Convergence 2012 Dynamics CRM

 

 

After concluding the first day at the Microsoft Convergence 2012 event here in Houston, TX, I can summarize my feelings in one sentence, “It is a great time to be alive and working on collaboration!” Why do I say that? Here are a few brief insights:

Collaboration Has Changed Us

The initial general session opened with a song that was composed by artists working from different locations around the globe.  It was impressive to hear music that these individuals put together without having met each other.  During the session, I was taking notes on my slate using OneNote – these notes were syncing with our SharePoint server back at the office.  I was also having chat discussions with colleagues both at the event and back at the office via Lync and email.  Later, I was on a Skype call with a new prospect in Australia.  And it began to sink in how much things have changed over the past 10 years.  The idea of collaborating in real time, or even iteratively, with people around the globe, has moved from an idea to the norm.

The Future is so Bright…

But as much as things have changed, the future is even brighter.  I’ll do a separate blog on some of the changes to expect with the rollout of new versions of Dynamics CRM, SharePoint and Windows in the next 12 months, but here are facts you may not know about Microsoft:

  • 95,000 employees in over 190 countries and over 600,000 partners – that is a tremendous amount of human thinking contributing to innovation
  • 1.5 million people use Microsoft products – and they’re using competing products too, forcing Microsoft to continue to innovate
  • The spend $9 billion in R&D annually – if I heard it correctly, they’re in the top few companies in the world in R&D spend – this will translate into exciting developments over the next 5-10 years that we’re not even envisioning today

 

Collaboration Done Right

After many years of working as a Microsoft partner, one of the things I have grown to appreciate is their approach to the market.  Make no mistake, I don’t drink all of the Microsoft kool-aid and I know that many have a very negative view of Microsoft just because they are the “big kid on the block.”  But they are doing a lot of things right and they get very little credit for it.  Specifically:

  • Open Ecosystem: Although many would argue that Microsoft software is not “open” (which is true and, in my view, is a good thing), their ecosystem is open.  What does that mean?  Simply that they do not prohibit others from publishing improvements or add-ons to their products.  Anyone can publish a Windows program or CRM add-on (for example) without being forced to go through a “closed” marketplace that may mark it up or may eliminate competitive products all together.  The downside of this is that some low quality products can find their way to the market – the upside is that individual companies and developers have much more freedom to innovate (even if that means competing with Microsoft).
     
  • Choice: Microsoft gives both customers and partners the ability to choose.  I had a number of conversations on the first day of the event with customers that said they began working with another company that made it very easy to get started, but they quickly felt trapped.  In some cases I heard complaints about working with a vendor that did not do knowledge transfer – so they could never learn enough to function on their own if they wanted to.  In other cases, I heard that businesses were frustrated because they were trapped in someone else’s cloud that was expensive and limited what they could do.  Microsoft has always worked to provide options (such as the ability to host in their cloud, a partner cloud or a private cloud), and to provide transparent access to knowledge.
     
  • Partners: Microsoft has always been dedicated to supporting a partner channel. Although they are not always perfect in their execution of their partner programs, they have created millions of jobs around the globe in partner businesses.  They also understand that partners will often need to work with firms that compete with Microsoft; they may wish it were otherwise, but they understand how partner businesses work.  There is a downside – there are some partner firms out there that do less than high-quality work or that may have low-integrity sales practices; but there are also many thousands of partner firms to choose from that provide local, regional, national and global options to businesses located anywhere on earth.
     

I realize that this sounds a little bit like an advertisement for Microsoft.  From what I’ve seen, however, Microsoft attracts an undue amount of criticism. I have, admittedly, sometimes been in the chorus of voices offering (hopefully constructive) criticism.  But this is an organization that is having a tremendously positive impact for their customers, for their partners and for their employees.  With the values they have in place, I hope they thrive for a long time to come. 

Having been around collaboration (from the process, technical and human sides) for over 20 years, I’m more excited than I’ve ever been before about the prospects for the future.  Not just because of what Microsoft is doing, but because of how the entire world is changing.   Here’s to working together to use collaboration to make positive changes, provide tools that enable us to express a genuine care for colleagues and customers, and free people and businesses to innovate!